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Coughing exists as a defense mechanism in humans and other animals. The goal of this reflex is to expel unrecognized elements or secretions stored in the airways and larynx. When it occurs in pathological conditions, it can indicate the presence of significant diseases, and many times it can be diagnosed thanks to the types of coughs existing.

At least a quarter of the healthy population has a cough at some time of their life. We have all had a cough, but when it is annoying and chronic, it is advisable better to inform yourself with the opinion of a doctor.

Coughing is an important reflex since it protects and keeps the airways clean so that the air flows normally, avoiding infections by viruses and bacteria. Coughing expels foreign substances and agents out of the body thanks to the air pressure created by the reflex, so it is not always advisable to entirely eliminate a cough. It is crucial to identify the types of coughs that may occur.

Causes

The causes can be due to various factors. The most frequent and vital is the inflammation of the respiratory tract due to different pathologies. But you have to know that coughing also occurs very commonly without the existence of a disease, this is due to the foreign agents that we breathe, an environment with pollution, tobacco smoke, temperature, and humidity, or even problems with wax in the ears. Also, certain medications cause coughing, and various situations of distress or stress can cause this reflex.

A man smoking a cigarette needs to cough

In adolescents, it is relatively common to have some types of coughs, especially if they have asthma, allergies, or any respiratory tract complications. In adults, the mucosa of the airways begins to dry out due to the glands’ deterioration because of age, which can cause a chronic cough.

What are the Types of Coughs?

There are different classifications for coughs, but the most accepted in the medical world are based on duration and productivity. First, let us differentiate between two types of coughs: acute cough and chronic cough.

An acute cough is one that occurs for a maximum of six weeks after the first attack, while chronic cough is one that lasts at least six weeks and can extend indefinitely.

There are two types of coughs: dry cough(or ineffective) and wet cough (or effective).

Dry cough

A dry (or ineffective) cough is not intended to expel foreign substances or agents produced by infections in the airways. As it makes little sense, it is advisable to eliminate it, since it only causes irritation and fatigue, in addition to aggravating any problem that needs to be treated in the respiratory system.

The wet (or effective) cough has a clear goal: to expel the accumulated substances along the respiratory tract. This cough is productive since it eliminates the accumulated mucosa, which is beneficial for our body. In this case, it is not advisable to eliminate it (depending on what causes it), but medical opinion is always necessary.

Wet cough

Finally, we can talk about a particular type of cough: psychosomatic cough caused by psychological factors. This cough has no biological purpose, nor does it help the body, and occurs when someone has a cough for no apparent reason. 

 

A wet cough should be preserved, as it is a productive cough, although, as we said, a medical opinion should be sought. On the other hand, non-productive coughs like dry coughs have to be eliminated. Experts recommend seeing a doctor when you have a chronic cough (or if the cough is accompanied by unrecognized secretions or blood).

Treatments

We can divide the remedies for the types of coughs into two, based on their effect. One is the pharmacological point of view, and the other is based on hygiene measures to control the types of coughs.

It is essential to mention that the non-productive cough is the one that generally should be eliminated and that the mucous and foreign agents should be made easier with the productive cough.

Seven tips to relieve coughs

 1. Maintain a suitable environment. The best conditions to avoid coughing are a slightly humid environment with warm steam, which can be achieved with some plants in your house or with humidifiers. It is also recommended that the temperature of your home does not exceed 20 degrees Celsius.  

  

   2. Drink water. Drinking between 2 and 3 liters of water a day keeps the respiratory tract’s humidity at its normal level and with good fluidity in the mucosa. Also, drinking hot drinks has a softening effect, improving the release of mucus. 

 

   3. Keep the place ventilated. Proper ventilation prevents dust and foreign agents from accumulating, as well as avoiding sudden changes in temperature. 

 

   4. Avoid cigarette smoke. It is known that tobacco smoke is highly irritating to the respiratory system; if you are a smoker, it is recommended that you seek help to stop the addiction. If you are not a smoker, avoid being around smoke, as it can irritate you very easily. 

 

   5. Nasal washes. Nasal washes are recommended to expel irritating mucus. You can make nasal washes with saline solution or a nasal aspirator.

 

   6. Infusions with plants. The plant kingdom has many surprises, and different plants can help us relieve coughs. Two of them are mallow and marshmallow root, which soften and hydrate the respiratory system’s mucosa. Other plants, such as pine or eucalyptus, increase the mucosa’s fluidity, facilitating its expulsion. 

 

   7. The use of certain substances such as honey or licorice can soften the mucosa and relieve irritation. 

These solutions are not pharmaceutical and are used to alleviate symptoms of conditions that cause cough, but not to eliminate diseases, consult your doctor and let him know your doubts using these tips.

Bottom line

Coughs are conditions that occur due to different factors, and it is vital to know the types of coughs to understand how to proceed. If there is a chronic cough or an acute cough with unknown substances, it is advisable to see a doctor. Take care of your health and that of your family.